Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has been working hard to remain joyful in a campaign season dominated by voter fury and frustration.
“I really strive not to get bogged down in the here and now, because the here and now is going to change in a week and it’ll change again,” Bush says, explaining his aversion to the relentless press coverage of the horse race. ” I think the measurement of success is over the long haul. So, I’m doing this. I’m working hard — I’m working 16 hour days. And I do do it joyfully for sure.”
In an interview with TIME on Oct. 8, Bush spoke about how he tries to stay happy in the face of a grueling campaign, why being an introvert may be an advantage, and why he leans on his brother for advice. “I can’t change who I am,” he says. “It took me 62 years to be who I am and it’s impossible to play like I’m someone who I’m not. I’m going to be who I am.”
He spoke in his car on a drive to the airport after a three-day swing in Iowa. Below is a lightly edited and condensed transcript.
TIME: What has surprised you most on the campaign trail?
Bush: I didn’t know what to expect because every election is different. The challenges I face— I have understood them from the beginning, I knew that that this was going to be a long haul, to get where we need to be, which is to tell the Jeb story, add value to what people know about me, which is dependent on where they live either not very much at all or some. And it’s been my responsibility from the very beginning to methodically go about telling my life story, what’s in my heart, the experience I have, the business experience, the political experience, leading a complex—the largest swing state in the country for eight years. That experience, all that stuff has been what I’ve focused on. So there’re the three things from the beginning: give insights on my character, my passion, my life experience in general. Tell the personal story. Talk about why leadership matters and my record of accomplishment as governor. And advocate ideas to give people a sense that not only do I have the skills to fix the things that are broken in Washington, but I have ideas that will lift them up. Those three things—that’s what I focus on. And I don’t know what everybody else does in the campaign, but that’s what I do.
Are expectations higher for you on the campaign trail as a Bush?
I do think the bar’s higher for me, but that’s good. That makes me focus on being better each and every day. So, I don’t view it as a burden, I view it as an opportunity.
You’ve been at this for almost a year. How have you improved?
Just trial and error, man, just grinding it out. You’ve got to get better as you go along. I assume everyone gets better, but I strive to do it. How I communicate, how I connect with people. That’s the main, main way in my part of the world, in my mission. That’s uniquely my responsibility, so I take it seriously.
In a recent interview with The Skimm, you described yourself as a grinder and an introvert, that’s not what you usually expect from people in public life.
Well, people in public life, normally the people that are involved generally kind of, the extroverts migrate to the public arena. But introverts win in the end, brother. That’s the way I look at it. Being mission driven, being focused, being really striving for improvement, being self-aware and not being driven by your own ego, but being driven by a mission, I think in the end is a good set of personality traits that will be helpful. It is what it is. So, I can’t change who I am. It took me 62 years to be who I am and it’s impossible to play like I’m someone who I’m not. I’m going to be who I am.
Can you be joyful that way?
As a grinder?
Yeah, absolutely. The joy comes from interacting with people who have something important to say. The joy is when people come up to you and say, ‘boy, I hope you win, you give me hope.’ Joy comes from people I interact with. And I have the advantage of not following the clips. No offense, I won’t read your article. I won’t.
I don’t know if you read our last one?
Probably not. I don’t think I did.
The TIME cover?
Oh, I actually sign a lot of them. It’s one of the great pictures of all times. I sign about ten of them a day.
It is a tremendous picture.
I was skinny, and I had long hair. So I really strive not to get bogged down in the here and now, because the here and now is going to change in a week and it’ll change again. I think the measurement of success is over the long haul. So, I’m doing this. I’m working hard — I’m working 16 hour days. And I do do it joyfully for sure. I don’t know if I could do it as joyfully if I read the ‘life or death,’ ‘the world’s coming to an end,’ all this crapola that people talk about. It just doesn’t have the same purpose for me if I was focused on, if I was obsessive about the politics for politics. It just wouldn’t—That would take joy from my heart in a heartbeat. It really would. Other people kind of like it I think, but it doesn’t motivate me.
Whose advice is more significant? Your brother’s or your mothers?
My brother gives me good advice. It doesn’t come with great regularity. I need to ask him more to be honest with you. Because he’s got a great, very astute, sense. Put it this way, since 1992, he’s the only Republican who has won a presidential election, so that’s kind of a privileged status there in terms of experience. But my mom is just a loyal mom. She watches TV and throws shoes at it. She’s not giving me advice. I talked to her yesterday and she basically said, ‘I love you’ about five different ways.
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